Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) has confirmed that he will return to the Giro d'Italia in May, to take on Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano), Elia Viviani (Cannondale), Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEdge) in the sprint finishes.
This year's Giro d'Italia starts in Belfast, Northern Ireland on May and ends in Trieste on June 1. The first half of the route includes several opportunities for the sprinters before the mountain stages decide the overall classification.
Bouhanni went close to victory on three occasions at the 2013 Giro d'Italia, finishing third on the opening stage and second behind Mark Cavendish in Treviso, when the Manxman celebrated his 100th career win. Bouhanni then quit the Giro d'Italia and rode the Critérium du Dauphiné and Tour de France. However, he struggled with stomach problems in July and quit the Tour during stage 8.
The former French national champion won the Grand Prix de Denain on Thursday with an impressive surge of speed but told l'Equipe that he will now take a break before preparing for the Giro d'Italia.
"I'm going to take four or five days off the bike. Then I'll get ready for the Giro," he said. "I want to prepare quietly so I can be at my best. I'll have a good team to help me in the sprints. It's good to take a break after winning, its good for the head."
Bouhanni has won five races this season including a stage at Paris-Nice. Last year, he won the opening stage of the week-long March stage race and wore the leader's yellow jersey but crashed out on stage 2.
"I'm happy with how the season has gone so far. I feel stronger than last year. Thanks to the support from my teammates, I'm more relaxed and so can sprint better," he said.
"Last year, I crashed hard at Paris-Nice, I broke my teeth, my ribs and everything. I struggled to get back to my best. I crashed this year too but it was far less serious."
Bouhanni is also chasing a new contract. His current contract with FDJ.fr ends this year and he wants to stay but faces serious competition for the protected sprinter role from current teammate and fellow Frenchman Arnaud Demare, who last signed a new contract that last until the end of 2016.